I was doing a little research this past weekend on Richard Feynman and came across a speech that he gave at a meeting of the American Physical Society in December of 1959. Of course, Feynman did many great things but I want to focus solely on this speech which basically foreshadows the amazing things that we would be able to do with nanotechnology. You can read a copy of the speech here, http://www.zyvex.com/nanotech/feynman.html , but I thought I would point points that were most memorable to me. Feynman discussed the concept of writing 24 volumes of the Encyclopedia of Brittanica on the head of the pin. He announced that it would be possible if it is demagnified by 25,000 times and each dot is readjusted by photoengraving. In order to read this small print, we would have to make a mold of the lettering and evaporate gold at an angle so that the little letters will appear clearly in a silica film under an electron microscope. If all 24 million books throughout the world were placed onto pinheads, they would use up the area of about a million pinheads. I thought it was very interesting that although we wouldnt be able to read off the head of a pin, we could send books with little effort to devastated countries and underdeveloped nations. It is incredible to think that over 50 years ago, someone thought of this and to compare this idea with the progresswe have made through the years in nanotechnology.
A very promising lead that emerged from Richard Feynman’s speech was the ability to write on a small- scale. In 1990, the image of atomic manipulation caused quite an uproar. In 1981, scientists developed the scanning tunnelingmicroscope to assist them in seeing single atoms clearly.(Keiper) The image, spelling out “IBM” in just 35 atoms, was created out of xenon atoms and was just the beginning of new advances. By picking up and placing atoms in a desired location, scientists broke through to another new level. Feynman’s speech predicted that this would be possible, as he couldn’t see why it wouldn’t work. Feynman was definitely before his time with many of the topics addressed in his speech but for this particular one, it may have been just what the world needed to get off on the right foot in research and development.
Sorry that's so long and boring; I found it interesting